Cara Lewis located a spinning Sydney Dowler lob at its summit, leaping high in the air for a powerful putaway try. Lewis’ shot squeezed through the outstretched arms of two Michigan defenders, who were only able to graze the spike as it spiraled to the hardwood.
But Kendall Murray slid her hand between the ball and the ground to keep the point alive.
Murray’s diving dig was redirected toward outside hitter Jess Mruzik, who pummeled home a crosscourt kill to push a lopsided match further out of reach for Maryland volleyball.
It was one of 17 kills on the evening for Mruzik, who led the Michigan Wolverines to a sweep of Maryland in Ann Arbor (15-25, 26-28, 20-25).
“I thought the vibe was right, but our execution was poor,” coach Adam Hughes said. “You’re playing another very, very good team, a team that’s receiving votes who just beat Minnesota, we knew we had to be at our best to give ourselves a chance.”
Despite a three-kill outburst from Maryland outside hitter Paula Neciporuka, coach Adam Hughes’ squad’s momentum fizzled in the opening frame.
Michigan’s three-headed monster came to life early, as attackers Mruzik, Paige Jones and May Pertofsky each banged home four first-set spikes to quickly eviscerate an early Maryland advantage.
The Wolverines’ offense found its groove, rattling off 13 of the final 15 points of the set in a 25-15 first frame victory. Maryland’s offense was stymied, as four Terps posted a negative hitting percentage in the opening set, a rare inefficient performance for a normally consistent attack.
“They were definitely aggressive from the service line,” Neciporuka said. “They came out really strong with their serves and that was causing us a little bit of trouble.”
And while the Terps showed fight early in the subsequent frame, Michigan once again proved too tough to handle.
After a blazing Neciporuka spike knotted the second set at 11, Michigan put its foot on the gas. Following Neciporuka’s putaway, the Wolverines grabbed eight of the next nine points to push the second frame nearly out of reach.
But the Terps wouldn’t go down without a fight.
A Laila Ricks tip-kill followed by a booming Rainelle Jones spike gave Maryland a brief flash of life. Later, back-to-back Jones putaway attempts were walled by the Terps’ defense, giving Maryland a set point.
However, the Terps’ miraculous comeback attempt fell just short. Jones recovered from consecutive errors, punching home a kill to stave off Maryland’s lone set point. And after a Pertofsky service ace on the subsequent point put the Wolverines back on the brink of a 2-0 lead, Jones spiked home yet another putaway to give Michigan a 28-26 second set victory.
“[We] had windows where I thought we were playing at a really high level, but had huge windows where we [gave] up too many points,” Hughes said. “Just not gonna be able to do that if you’re gonna try to get the outcome you want.”
The Wolverines then breezed to a 25-20 third set victory to complete the sweep of the visiting Terps. Mruzik, Jones and Pertofsky finished with a combined 42 kills, each hitting in double figures to send Maryland packing.
“There’s not really time to dwell on it, so the best thing we can do is just learn from this, see what our mistakes were, and how we can improve,” Neciporuka said.